Trust Administration

Trusts are frequently referred to as Will substitutes and, like Wills, will be administered at the death of the Grantor to wind up the decedent's affairs. Trusts, however, are administered during the life of the Grantor as well. Managing trusts involves a number of functions. The primary function of the trustee in most trusts is the investment of the assets. The trustee cannot delegate the responsibility for making decisions concerning trust investments, but can seek the advice of experts to assist the trustee in making investment decisions.

Trustees have duties that are imposed by law and powers that may be determined by the terms of the trust. Powers given to a trustee may include the power to invest, to take control of trust assets, to sue on behalf of the trust, to settle a suit and to sell and buy property. The trust document controls what the trustee can and cannot do. The trustee must administer the trust in good faith, in accordance with its terms and purposes and the interests of the beneficiaries.

During the term of the trust and until all of the trust property is distributed to the beneficiaries, the trustee is responsible for managing the property, making distributions to the proper beneficiaries at the stated times, maintaining records of the property management, making reports to the beneficiaries annually or when the trust determines, filing tax returns, and doing all things with the property as are allowed by law and by the terms of the trust for the benefit of the beneficiaries.

When the trust terminates, it is the responsibility to distribute trust property in accordance with the wishes of the Grantor. The skill of the attorney who drafted the trust becomes of primary importance during trust administration. The language of the trust should be clear and unambiguous to avoid conflicts during the administration of the trust.